Study environment survey: satisfaction, but room for improvement

The students are basically happy going to Aarhus University, according to the man responsible for the new study environment survey.

Denmark’s most thorough and in-depth study environment survey.
Without any embarrassment at all, this is what one could call the analysis reports on well-being, workload and stress levels among the Aarhus students, recently published in five colourful volumes by the Centre for Learning and Education.

A total of 344 pages are divided into one main volume about the whole university and four separate surveys of each of the main academic areas. Although each individual page provides enough material for hours of discussion in the university’s boards of studies, there is one significant conclusion that Centre Director Torben K. Jensen – who was responsible for the survey – would like to make particularly clear.

“The most important thing is that by far the majority of the students are doing well at Aarhus University. More than eighty-six per cent replied that they are generally pleased with their studies, and that is a very high proportion. In fact, it’s an increase of one single per cent since our last survey in 2007. I feel that’s a very important main result,” he says.

The academic side carries the most weight

However, the study environment survey also shows that a high degree of well-being does not come about on its own. By analysing the responses in a considerable number of areas and seeing how they differ from the general sense of satisfaction, it is possible to conclude which factors are significant for whether or not students thrive in their studies.

“To put it quite simply, our surveys show that the most important basis for well-being is the academic side – and not partying. And that’s not so hard to understand in fact. Doing a course that provides great drinking opportunities on a Friday night isn’t particularly important if the reading matter is boring. At the same time, however, the survey shows that even if students have found the right niche academically, their sense of well-being is negatively affected if they can’t socialise with their co-students,” says Dr Jensen.

The study programmes can intervene themselves

The latest study environment survey is the second one undertaken by the Centre for Learning and Education – the first one took place in 2007. Being backed up by two study environment surveys means that there is now an opportunity to analyse some of the measures implemented since the first one, according to Dr Jensen.

“The number of political science students, for example, who feel they have good opportunities for getting feedback from their lecturers has increased significantly from thirty-one to fifty-nine per cent. This increase is due to a specific initiative based on the last report,” he says.
At the same time, he points out that in spite of the overall positive result and good sense of well-being, the 2011 survey – just as in 2007 – still shows considerable variation from one department to another and from one study programme to another.

“A good deal can be explained by the financial situation. Some studies have more funds available for teaching and feedback than others. But finances don’t explain everything. Even the study programmes that resemble each other in terms of both framework conditions and academic content score differently in a number of satisfaction factors. Along with the examples of studies that have raised selected results significantly since 2007, this means in my opinion that specific local initiatives can have an impact on how happy the students are to study at university,” he says.

The study environment survey shows that:

  • 86 per cent of the students feel really happy with their studies in general
  • 61 per cent of the students regard the coherence between learning goals and examination requirements as good
  • 32 per cent have experienced strong stress symptoms up to an examination – 11 per cent experience the same in their day-to-day lives
  • 9 per cent feel lonely in their day-to-day lives.

Read the entire study environment survey, and find the individual subreports for the main academic areas at (in Danish only).